Slip and Fall? What Now? What do you do, legally, if you are subject to the defects of someone else’s property?

Premises liability is a broad area of the law that involves a person being injured or harmed in some way due to a defect that exists on a property. Examples of premises liability cases include slips and falls, or trips and falls, due to snow and ice; a slippery surface; a defect such as a  pothole, broken stair, cracked or uneven sidewalk; falling objects; security issues or other defective conditions.

The general rule regarding liability in a defective premise case is that a duty of reasonable care is owed to persons utilizing the property. Generally speaking, liability for an injury due to a defective premises does not depend on just ownership or title to the affected property but on possession, care, custody or control. The standard of care that is required of the possessor of land and the duty to warn depends upon the classification of the injured party. There is a limited duty owed to a trespasser, a duty owed to children where an attractive nuisance is involved is much greater and different duties of care are owed to licensees, guests, and business invitees.

To hold a defendant liable in a defective premises or negligence case, a plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of evidence: (1) The existence  of defect; (2) That the defendant knew or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known about the defective condition; (3) That the defect existed for such a length of time that the defendant should have, in the exercise of reasonable care, discovered and remedied this condition and (4) That the plaintiff’s injuries and resulting damages are casually related to the defective condition.

One of the major issues in premise liability cases is constructive notice. Constructive notice is not actual notice but notice that the Defendant should or could have known which can be proven through the use of circumstantial evidence. In order to determine liability in a defective premises or premises liability case there are a number of issues that should be investigated:

The Presence of Icy or Slippery Outdoor Stairs or Surfaces:

The mere presence of snow and ice does not necessarily establish negligence on the part of the owner or possessor of the property. In Connecticut, the general rule is that a property owner may wait until the end of a storm and a reasonable time thereafter before removing the snow and ice from outside steps, walkways or surfaces. A weather issue or ice and snow contributing or causing a fall could be the basis of an allegation of negligence.

Property Defects or Building Code Violations:

There could be a one of a number of building code violations which cause or contribute to the fall or accident. A building code expert or engineer could render a decision as to the correctness of the stair length or depth, the type, dimensions and locations of the handrails or other variations of code requirements. If the steps are improperly built or are not up to the standards of the building code then this could give rise to an allegation of negligence.

Defective or Poorly Maintained Surfaces:

If stairs or other surfaces that are defective are poorly maintained or are not kept in a good state of repair these situations might be grounds for allegations of negligence.

It is important if you are involved in a slip and fall or other type of premises liability accident case that all of the potential causes of the accident and the corresponding allegations of negligence be properly investigated and developed so that your rights are protected.